Thursday, October 25, 2012

in and out of the game

I like Freya Stark's romantic singularity more than Matthiessen's primal hugging and why I prefer it is a thing I might one day sit down and think about, though it may have been Peake when I was younger, helping to teach me, yet I believe it may have been my own sense of privacy, standing foremost, fitting me to like Peake's books, and also, recently, Vilette, with its protagonist who loves her interior, her loneliness, and her thoughts. I looked at a copy of Patrick White's Riders in the Chariot and remembered one nurse in The Eye of the Storm running through a paragraph of thought while she's alone in, I think, the garden.

Walt Whitman makes me uneasy whenever he decides that he is large, he contains multitudes, he sees all of America, "The suicide sprawls on the bloody floor of the bedroom, | I witness the corpse with its dabbled hair, I note where the pistol has fallen," this big web he says he is, this interconnection, this human being as a spy camera never letting you away, or me; all of us his grist, but then I remember that he says

Apart from the pulling and hauling stands what I am,
Stands amused, complacent, compassionating, idle, unitary,
Looks down, is erect, or bends an arm on an impalpable certain rest,
Looking with side-curved head curious what will come next,
Both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.

and that the conglomerate poem is made of discrete pieces, two-line verses, aphorisms, and other independent units: it contains antisocial elements, and people will normally remember a line or two or a scrap, but rarely the whole poem at once: the isolated reserves itself, and is a mark of mortality. The isolated is the thing that stops.

And I wonder if the removal in Song of Myself is less the removal of a door between the narrator and other people ("Unscrew the locks from the doors! | Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!") than it is the imaginary removal of the door between imagination and life, for if he is "hauling my boat down the shallow river, | Where the panther walks to and fro on a limb overhead, where the buck turns furiously at the hunter" then he is living an imaginary life, he is his imaginary life, and he is only doing and being the things that Walt Whitman has heard about in his private brain, from books he's read or papers he's heard, or lessons he's had, these bits of news about Egyptian gods, ships, horses, and buck hunting, but anything he does not mention I assume he does not, in his role as a singular and absolutely disconnected nineteenth-century North American person, know. He has assembled a primary set of sources; he arranges them so that they radiate out from him. He is a little adventure-story writer, and all lives are adventure-story lives, all imagined, as the person takes the available information and dreams up boundarylines and relationships -- Whitman dreaming heavily of both, and having both, being the sensual unit and the universal object at the same time, an ambiguity, as Peake's characters in Gormenghast are hampered by the society of the castle and yet the author tells us that they are "themselves;" they are coherent, as no reader in their modern choice-world will ever be. The Countess Gertrude, buttocking up the ladder in the seared library, is expressed beautifully by her bottom, but my bottom has never done the same for me.

(This idea of being "yourself" is a strange one now that I come to think of it; what does it mean?

In Titus Groan and Gormenghast it seems to mean that you are consumed in yourself, your nature dictates everything you do, and even your features, your nose, your feet, your hair, will be examined by an author who wants to know whether this part of yourself suits you or not; you behave absolutely in the way that the thing that is you should behave (you're not only never out of character, you're always reinforcing that character), you do not let anything else distract you; you are solitary in the ongoing consummation of yourself, you are a vacuum into which anything of you disappears if it does not express that character.

I see commentators who say that Peake's characters have been damaged by their setting; I do not often see one who points out that they have brutally been perfected by it.)

No comments:

Post a Comment